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Monday, July 20, 2020

Mystery: Now They Hear It All The Time


The realm of Reddit is one that I’m highly hesitant to ever go near when it comes to content. While some may see it as more reputable than, say, 4chan, I think that Reddit’s voting system causes it to create not only a hivemind, but a sense of believability that can be passed along to the average user. This, in turn, can create the aforementioned hivemind. With a website like 4chan: there may be a hivemind at work on some boards, but it’s at least transparent about being one. Reddit isn’t that way, but that could just be my experience with the site.

In spite of that, there are times when Reddit provides me with something that’s a bit too good to pass up. In this case though, I didn’t find it myself. Rather, I found it from the fandom site “Paranormal World”. I went to this site when I covered the Nickelodeon Killer back in May and I made it clear (or at least I hope I did) that I didn’t want to seem like I was poaching content from the site. The person who operates the site deserves every bit of credit for finding these stories; I think that the stories they’ve covered are extremely fascinating (if a bit on the hard to believe side). Today, I want to make a journey back there because this one in particular really caught my attention as being something exceptionally interesting.

The story in question is about a mysterious PSA that a few Reddit users recalled seeing, but have never been able to find anything regarding its existence. That, on its own, is worth a write-up. Missing/lost media is something I’m really into, though I seldom cover it on its blog as it requires a fair bit more work, though I intend on covering it a little bit more as the year goes on—though I hope to have something like that posted this month.

Moving on though: it’s worth mentioning that this story, aside from just being something related to lost media, also reads a lot like a horror story. That, to me, is usually indicative of a creepypasta and given that this is related to television, one’s mind would drift into the realm of, say, Candle Cove, The Wyoming Incident, or Happy Appy. A mysterious piece of television history that hardly anyone remembers, but a few recall it and talk about it online. That screams of the the first and third (Happy Appy’s original story being a direct, shameless ripoff of Candle Cove) with the second being a broadcast intrusion as far as my shoddy memory can be asked to recall. Though I digress; let’s get back on track. We’re here to discuss a PSA and I don’t wish to waste too much time on the intro.

Due to how the story reads like a creepypasta, I was a bit hesitant at first to cover it. However, given it’ll be a bit before I believe I’m truly able to get my life fully back on track, I wanted to take a leap into a sort of “real life” creepypasta. So that brings us to the story at hand. As stated earlier, it takes us back to Paranormal World. It’s here that there is a page entitled Now They Hear It All The Time. I wish to take a look at this story because it’s certainly odd to see a story that screams “creepypasta” that’s treated with genuine sincerity. So let’s see if we can get to the bottom of this peculiar PSA and have a bit of fun with a potential piece of television history.



The Story

Our story, as stated enough times to kill an elephant, takes us to Paranormal World. It’s here that two sources are cited for the story of “Now They Hear It All The Time” (which I’ll simply refer to as the “PSA” from here on out). One is a Reddit comment and the other is from a website called metafilter—specifically on a thread centering around Tinnitus (which is one of the central focuses of this entire story). We’ll start off on Reddit as it’s the first source cited and because I’m in no way, shape, or form mimicking Paranormal World’s layout of this story—no siree.

Ah Reddit. The land of spez, spez, and holy mother of God, I cannot fathom how spez is still in charge. It’s because of this terrible journey to Reddit  that I’ve now lost an eye, an arm, and thirty-five percent of my will to live. It’s on this cesspool of a site that a comment was made by a user named brock_lee on November 24, 2018; the comment being on an AskReddit thread about everyone’s Internet white whale (or in other words, something that’s hard to find; it’s a term coined from Herman Melville’s book Moby Dick). It reads as follows:

When I was a kid, there was a television PSA they aired about tinnitus. This would have been maybe 1978 to 1980 or so. Someone was narrating, while these thing that looked like frosted glass mannequin heads would flash internal lights while typical tinnitus humming and buzzing sounds played. This may have been limited to the NYC area, not sure. Have never found it on YouTube.

I always thought that having tinnitus would be horrible based on this PSA, never realizing I already had it. Fortunately, for me it's not horrible.

The first response that brock_lee got was from a user named pec-man. His comment reads as follows:

I may have seen that one. I remember it ends with "Now they hear it... all the time."

Quite ominous. After this, brock_lee responded by adding onto his original post.

Wow, that sounds vaguely familiar, but I can't say for sure. I just remember the sounds and someone talking. I kind of remember them saying something like "and they can't turn it off", but it really may have been "they hear it all the time".

All of this, eerie as it may seem, ties into the condition that is Tinnitus. For those unfamiliar with it: it’s essentially a condition in which someone hears a persistent ringing in their ear. I have a family member who suffers from it and while it may seem insufferable or hindering, it doesn’t seem to have affected him a great deal. I imagine it’s more frustrating and bothersome than something that would hinder your life in the way that, say, scoliosis or fibromyalgia would. In spite of that, the PSA that’s described here is one that would seem a fair bit odd to broadcast given that someone with Tinnitus could watch it and could prove to be a bit painful to listen to (though I imagine those with sensitive hearing could be bothered by their television in general if the volume was up too high).

The Reddit comment chain continues on for a fair bit, with one user by the name of mutant_scum asking if it was the station WPIX. Another user mentions how he got banned from r/Tinnitus (which is unsurprising given jannies on Reddit are about as bad as mods on /sp/). Beyond that, there’s not a whole lot to go off of from this one comment chain, so let’s move onto the second source that was cited on Paranormal World: the metafilter comment.

Nearly a decade prior to brock_lee’s comment, on the morning of February 11, 2009, a user by the name of JBennett posted this comment on a thread entitled “That Buzzing Sound: The mystery of tinnitus”. Indeed, there’s a fair bit of mystery behind what causes Tinnitus, but that’s a topic for another day. For now, let’s read what JBennett had to say.

Everytime a Tinnitus FPP shows up I run off to search for the old PSA that ran constantly through my youth. Static shot of a dramatically lit mannequin head, black/grey background with overlapping tracks of different everyday noise building up, steadily, until it all becomes white noise and then abruptly goes silent. After a beat, three red lazer spots ping on the temple of the mannequin head and a ultra high pitch tone pulses slowly.

It freaked me out. I want to see it again and see if I remember it correctly. Has anyone else seen this? It hasn't turned up on youtube, or at least not spelled correctly.

I asked an uncle of mine who has Tinnitus about this and he said that what’s described here is White Noise, which is actually used to decrease the intensity of Tinnitus. This effect can also come from the advertisement described by brock_lee.

Speaking of him: this is a fair bit different from what he posted about in a few ways and as such, it gives us some insight into how imperfect memory truly is. It leads one to ponder which is the more accurate description of the PSA, though for the sake of consistency: I won’t pick between either and instead remain as neutral as Switzerland during a war.

Now with that said: nobody responded to JBennett, though one user named simoncion favorited it. Nobody ever acknowledged JBennett’s comment and as such, I’m inclined to believe that either nobody knew what they were talking about or they simply didn’t care. As for simoncion: they added to the discussion, but didn’t acknowledge what JBennett had mentioned.

Now with that, if we’re to go by what Paranormal World has to say on this: that’s more or less where the references to this peculiar PSA end. Though I’m not Paranormal World and dang it, I want to get to the bottom of this mystery. As such, I decided to utilize the all-mighty, all-knowing, and all-powerful search engine that is Google. I decided to snoop around for this PSA and see if the operator of that wiki had missed anything. So I clacked away on my laptop keyboard and gave up after one Google search because I realized I had absolutely nothing to really go off of beyond a vague time period and a hypothetical name/phrase that wasn’t even consistent. Whatever was spoken in the PSA isn’t something that matches up from memory to memory.

It’s because of that that I think this is a good point to end the story. While this is more or less a shameless carbon copy of what’s already available on Paranormal World, I will add to this with the theories section. Now nobody can sue me for being a shameless thief; I have my own addition to the story. I have an idea of ten bazillion, bros. Praise me.

Theories

1. It was a real PSA

Our first theory is that this was, in fact, a real PSA. While there’s no video evidence that this ever existed, there is some circumstantial evidence in the form of how weird, creepy, and downright bizarre some commercials can get. Below are a few that I’ve compiled because of their general creepiness; while they may not be PSAs, I think it still properly highlights how unusual some commercial breaks can get.

#1: Pringles and the Really Creepy Talking Head

This is a commercial that I recall scaring the living daylights out of me six ways from Sunday when I was a child. You can view it below, but if you don’t want to: it’s an advertisement for Pringles potato chips. They’re delicious and far superior to any other potato chip out there (pay me now please). With that said: this commercial is exceedingly creepy and a disembodied head vaguely warning me that I’d regret buying Doritos isn’t my idea of coercion into purchasing another brand of potato chips. For starters: Doritos are disgusting and an F-tier snack. Though this commercial is far worse than Doritos.


Side note: I don’t actually hate Doritos.

#2: The PS3 Baby Commercial

I don’t quite understand why the PlayStation 3 had such a bizarre ad campaign. It had a budget of $150,000,000 and yet every commercial would’ve made David Lynch run screaming into the night. Arguably the weirdest—not to mention creepiest—was the one involving a toy doll staring at the overpriced black box that had no games for longer than I had no girlfriend. Take a look at what $600 could’ve gotten you at launch.


At least it had Resistance: Fall of Man, right my fellow /v/irgins?

#3: Ice Cream Cannibalism

Little Baby’s Ice Cream had the brilliant idea to release a commercial that was more or less a human made out of ice cream cannibalizing himself. Take a look.


This is often regarded as one of the creepiest commercials ever made and I certainly agree. While I think it’s less eerie than the previous commercial, it’s still unnerving to watch and, quite honestly, makes me not want to buy the ice cream. Points to the actor for taking up the job though.

#4: Caffeine and the Screaming Zombie

This is a classic. It shows a car slowly driving through a beautiful countryside before a zombie pops up and screams like Steven Tyler. It’s been used in a great many jump scare videos and is a classic in the realm of Internet pranks. I’ve even used it on one of my friends to make her jump out of her skin. Now I’m wanted in 7 different countries. Not sure why. Anyways: here’s the video.


#5: Japanese Tire Commercial

Okay, as a forewarning: this commercial’s actually ridiculously good with the jump scare. Then again, it’s from Japan and they’re nothing if not good at scaring me. With that said, I have little to say on this one. It’s really bizarre and how on Earth it was ever approved in any capacity—even in Japan—is beyond me.


Not what i’d call the best way to get people to buy your tires. Though what do I know? I can’t even advertise this blog without being a self-loathing weirdo.

Those are but five examples of commercials that were certainly not the most conventional in the way of getting their message out there. As such, we could extrapolate that there’d potentially be a PSA out there that would be equal parts creepy and unconventional. Though why exactly would it fade into obscurity? Well, there are a few reasons. The first is that the Internet wasn’t necessarily a thing back then. People still went outside to play, have fun, and socialize. This was before all we did was use social media to bemoan about how hard life is in a first world nation and how terrible it is that holier-than-thou bloggers with five or so readers would bemoan about how people bemoan about things.

The second is that, while many commercials from back then survive thanks to people recording things on VHS tapes, not everything was recorded. For better or for worse, there are likely several commercials/advertisements that went unrecorded or unnoticed by many that have faded into obscurity. Because of this, the idea that this commercial was real isn’t that far-fetched. Case closed, right? Not quite. We still have a couple of theories left, so let’s move on.

2. It was a false memory

Let’s face it: memory horribly imperfect. If you dare see the memory of something that happened 30-some-odd years ago as being infallible, you’re foolish. There’s no way the memory will be perfect, let alone reliable. Likewise, this theory suggests that the PSA was not real and instead a product of a false memory, likely based on a real PSA that was misremembered from JBennett and brock_lee.

3. It was a creepypasta

The third and final theory is that this entire story was nothing more than a creepypasta. This is something that the article on Paranormal World had mentioned early on: the story has similar elements to Candle Cove and the Wyoming Incident. Both of those are true and as such, I think it’s necessary to at least give this some attention. In order to do this, I went to see if, by some chance, brock_lee and JBennett were the same person, but I couldn’t find anything that tied them together. My incredible detective skills can only extend so far, lads.

Anyways, beyond that, there’s little to go off of this theory. While it’s true that the story does bear some similarities, it predates both of them—I think at least. Candle Cove was written in 2009 (which as you may remember is the same year that JBennett made his comment). However, the exact date is something I cannot find. Regardless, there’s little time for it to have been ripped off by JBennett. A mere six or so weeks to be exact, so I’m hesitant to say that Candle Cove came first. If it did, I won’t deny that it’s entirely possible that this story was copied from that creepypasta, though I think it’s highly unlikely.

Now what’s a lot more interesting is the Wyoming Incident. The videos for it began to circulate back in 2007—two years prior to this story having been written. That video is famous for having some disembodied heads and weird sounds too. Take a gander.


We’ll talk about the Wyoming Incident in the near future, but for now, let’s focus on this. Officially, that supposed broadcast hijacking is nothing more than a creepypasta, but some insist it was real. While there’s no reference to adverse harm being done with the story we’ve discussed, the same cannot be said for the Wyoming Incident. In that story, it caused a fair bit of harm to those that watched and heard it. So that begs one serious question: could this story have been a knockoff that one with a fair bit of changes being made?

I’m doubtful.

While the two do have some similarities, one can argue that the Wyoming Incident was inspired or directly based on the Max Headroom Incident. A creepy face/head is by no means anything special and the sounds related to Tinnitus can be scary to anyone given the faint sound of ringing being generally creepy. However, I’ll let you be the judge for this theory.

My Take

Honestly, I think the PSA was real. While it’s certainly odd to say that given just how many creepypastas exist surrounding weird, creepy television broadcasts, I think this is an exception to that. Nothing about this harmed anyone and it didn’t adversely affect anyone (beyond rocking the brains of those who have tried to remember it).

While the story may definitely read like something out of a creepypasta, I think it lacks enough of the necessary tropes and cliches that would cement it as a fake. These include, but are not limited to:

#1: A tense swap within the first five sentences. While it may seem like I’m bullying or being an absolute meanie pants, creepypastas are notorious for having the writing quality of David Benioff on a good day. I will never concede this point. Stories like Candle Cove, BEN Drowned, and Psychosis (among others) are exceptions to this rule.

#2: There’s a lack of death and adverse harm (as stated before) in this story. Creepypastas are notorious for making sure that everything can hurt you—such as bleach, which is miraculously flammable and grants you superpowers.

#3: There’s no blood. A lack of blood in a creepypasta is like a Paranormal Activity movie without a door moving being the scariest thing.

Those are but three examples. Though they’re sardonic, I stand by them. Creepypastas and, likewise, campfire stories tend to follow similar themes and all encompass simplistic elements. The storyteller uses them to the best of their advantage, but they’re by no means the highest of high quality unless the author puts their all into it (which I’m of the opinion that they seldom do). Given that this story’s never exactly had a far reach, I’m inclined to suspect that it’s by no means something that was made for entertainment purposes. As for it being a hoax: I seriously doubt that. Once again, a lack of a far reach leads me to suspect that this isn’t the case. Nobody who wanted to circulate a hoax would ever stop when their hoax goes nowhere.

Because of my belief in this story, I’ll now move onto what I think happened to the PSA. Personally, I think it’s either collecting dust in an old collection somewhere, is in a dark corner of the Internet, or was simply never recorded on a VHS tape and will remain more a fable than anything else until someone comes out and states that it was, in fact, real.

Conclusion

This story’s one that makes me seriously contemplate making several new categories for this blog. While I don’t know of many television mysteries, I’ve opted to classify this one as an Internet Mystery since I found it on, well, the Internet and that’s about as close as I can get. If you think I should add more tags to help organize the blog more, let me know in the comments below. Until next time: thank you for reading and stay safe.

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